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France asks Libya to ease Sudan Chad tension

May 17, 2009 (PARIS) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy today urged the Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to pursue his efforts to ease the current tension between Sudan and Chad.

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Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi attends the opening of the African heads of State summit on February 2, 2009 in Addis Ababa. (Reuters)

French Defense Minister Hervé Morin was in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, to deliver a message from President Sarkozy to his Libyan counterpart on a strategic partnership, the official JANA said.

"Sarkozy appealed to the (Libyan leader) to continue his efforts to overcome the tension in Sudan-Chad relations. Also France expressed satisfaction at the prospects for the resumption of negotiations between the government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)," the agency further reported.

In February 2008, Libya and France reportedly cooperated to support Chadian President Idriss Deby in his war against the rebels who were then at the doors of the presidential palace in Ndjamena.

Libya provided Deby with the necessary ammunition for his Russian-made weapons to repel the rebel attack and supplied his army with weapons that JEM used in its May 10 attack against the Sudanese capital.

The Libyan support for President Deby was seen as a sign of Tripoli’s rejection of the Sudanese attempt to support the taking of Ndjamena by the then Goran-led Chadian opposition, which in the eighties had supported US efforts to topple Gadhafi.

However, President Deby since has slammed the recently taken Libyan position at the UN Security Council opposing Chad’s requested to condemn Sudan after the rebel attack on May 4. The Chadian foreign ministry summoned the Libyan ambassador in Ndjamena to protest against the Libyan position.

Also the Chadian President rejected any mediation role for the African Union, which is chaired by the Libyan leader. Deby said he would only accept a United Nations role in resolving his conflict with the Sudanese government.

Reports from Tripoli says Gadhafi, who describes himself proudly as Chairman of the African Union and king of kings of Africa, was angered by the hostile position of the Chadian President against his country.

However it is not clear whether the French request means that Paris wanted to distance itself from Deby’s criticism for Libya and the African Union, or it is just an attempt to keep Tripoli neutral and not too close with Khartoum.

(ST)